Innovation never travels a predictable road, but there are patterns. If there were a sure-fire method for innovating, we would long ago have cured the diseases and built space colonies. In fact, the innovative process is messy. It’s frustrating and exhilarating. And much advice on the subject seems to contradict itself.
Ways to innovation oppose each other, yet they depend on each other. And in that interplay, the magic happens.
For example, breakthroughs often come to people who mix it up with others, who like bees move from flower to flower making zillions of odd connections. This flurry of conversations and explorations creates a primordial stew from which a solution emerges. People who participate in vast and diverse networks are much more likely to find that breakthrough idea.
On the other hand, those same people need time to let notions seep, to mull things over, to listen to their intuition. There’s nothing like taking a break from the work — vacation, from vacare, to be empty — to let that other part of our brain kick in. Have you ever been in a group process struggling with an issue, and the good idea comes as you take a restroom break or go for a cup of coffee?
There’s a rhythm: Rarely do aha! moments come to a person who works only in isolation. Nor do they come to the one who only frenetically scrambles around for the answer. They come from the combination from the two. You can get a breakthrough idea from a dream or while taking a shower, but usually long after paying homage to the gods of social input — in coffee shops and hallways, through emails and phone calls.
Some Innovation Opposites:
Zoom in to the Details — Zoom out to the Big Picture
Mix it up — Let Notions Seep
Meet a Deadline — Give it Time
Immerse Yourself — Take a Break
Listen to Everybody — Ignore Everybody
Wrestle with Complexity — Seek Simplicity
Deep Dive — Survey Broadly
One Giant Leap — Many Small Steps